Verlander shows glimpses of old self to edge D-backs
Hunter, Jackson go deep before Cabrera drives in winning run
PHOENIX -- For most of this season, Justin Verlander has not been the ace he has been in previous years.
His 4.88 ERA entering Monday's game against the D-backs was higher than any of his final marks in his first eight full Major League seasons.
But about 10 minutes before Verlander started warming up before the game -- a contest Detroit wound up winning, 4-3, over Arizona -- he was looking at some pictures of his arm action from the past, and he noticed it had changed.
"[I] went out and tried to throw the way that I used to throw, and immediately, when I got on the mound to throw my bullpen to warm up, I was able to locate the way that I felt that I should," Verlander said. "I wasn't struggling to locate my fastball. I felt pretty easy, and that carried over into the game."
Verlander (9-8) didn't necessarily dominate the D-backs, going 6 2/3 innings and giving up three runs, but he pitched well enough to pick up the victory in a series-opening win.
For a few innings, he looked like vintage Verlander. With his fastball sitting in the low-90s and occasionally reaching 95, the veteran starter carved up the D-backs' order the first time through.
"I could tell right from Jump Street -- it felt like I was able to throw the way I want," he said. "Really the first time all year that I felt like I've been able to locate my fastball as well as I would like to."
The D-backs didn't manage a hit off him until second baseman Aaron Hill singled in the fourth inning, at which point things started to get a little rocky for Verlander.
All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt followed Hill with his Major League-leading 38th double, putting a pair of runners in scoring position.
The D-backs pushed across two runs in the inning on a groundout off the bat of catcher Miguel Montero and a single by left fielder Mark Trumbo.
Fortunately for the Tigers, the offense got off to just as hot of a start as Verlander did.
Up against Vidal Nuno, who was making his third start with the D-backs since being acquired from the Yankees, the Tigers got a pair of big flies from outfielders.
Right fielder Torii Hunter opened the scoring with a two-run homer deep into the left-field stands in the second, and center fielder Austin Jackson joined him an inning later with a solo shot to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
"It was [Hunter's] hot zone there, and I just left it up," Nuno said. "The consistency wasn't there and he took advantage of it. Jackson, it was just a cutter that just came in and he just took advantage of it."
The Tigers nearly added a third home run in the top of the seventh. Miguel Cabrera launched a line drive to center field, knocking it off the railing in front of the center-field concourse.
Thinking it was a home run, Cabrera was slow out of the box, so when Trumbo fired the ball back in, Cabrera was out by a few steps at second. Crew chief Fieldin Culbreth initiated a review to see if the ball was in play, and the call was confirmed.
More importantly, the long single scored Jackson from third for what proved to be the game-winning fourth run -- needed after D-backs right fielder Gerardo Parra hit a solo home run in the sixth inning.
"I was asking them to check if it was a home run or not to give [defensive coordinator] Matt Martin more time to look at the play at second base," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But they ended up looking at all of it, so it was all covered."